9:59am Thursday 19th December 2013
By Iwan Gabe Davies
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons head coach Darren Edwards urges his troops to get over their Amlin Challenge Cup disappointment by recording their first back-to-back away league wins for nearly two years.
Still smarting from their heavy 32-13 defeat away to Bordeaux-Bègles last Thursday, the Gwent region look to bounce back in the RaboDirect PRO12 on Saturday against Connacht.
Their last game on the road in the league saw the Dragons shock high flyers Glasgow 23-8 at the Scotstoun Stadium against all the odds.
This weekend they face bottom of the table Connacht in Galway, the Irish province the famous conquerors of record four-times Heineken Cup champions Toulouse in Europe’s premier club competition at Stade Ernest-Wallon earlier this month.
That 16-14 upset was one of the biggest in the tournament’s history and only Pat Lam’s side’s third win of the season – they have just one victory so far in the PRO12 this campaign.
Connacht came back down to earth with a nasty bump last weekend when Guy Novès’ men extracted revenge by smashing them 37-9 in the return encounter at the Sportsground.
And, looking ahead to Saturday’s showdown, Edwards is calling for the Dragons to be more ordered in their approach than they were last week in the South of France and recreate the kind of form which saw them gain a bonus point in the impressive 40-24 win over Bordeaux-Bègles at Rodney Parade in early December.
“We had a tough time last week in France and we were disappointed with our accuracy,” he said. “Giving away 18 penalties and three yellow cards meant we had no chance and discipline will be crucial against Connacht and the back-to-back derbies with the Cardiff Blues over Christmas because small margins are so important.
“We have to bounce back and sharpen up. We were in a good place going out to France but we didn’t deal with the pressure. It’s important we learn from our mistakes each week.”
A rare victory in Galway will also give the Dragons enormous confidence for their huge clash with the Blues on Boxing Day at Rodney Parade before the return fixture on New Year’s Day at Cardiff Arms Park.
Edwards said: “Everyone knows it is tough going to Connacht and you’ve got to deal with the tricky conditions there – especially this time of year.
“They will be coming back into the league a different team from the one that left it after their fantastic away win over Toulouse – they will be in a much better place after that.
“But we’ve got to get another away win to back up that great victory we had at Glasgow last month and that will set us up nicely to face the Blues.”
The last time the Dragons did win back-to-back league games away was March 23, 2012, a 29-15 triumph over Edinburgh at Murrayfield coming nearly a month after a 10-9 success over the now defunct Italian regional side Aironi in Viadana.
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